Edwards is best remembered for preaching the sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” which greatly affected the congregation at Enfield, Connecticut. on July 8, 1741. The sermon is often held up as an example of the Puritans’ pathological obsession with hell and a God of wrath. In truth, the sermon, excerpted below, is a devout appeal to repentance, made to an audience that had no doubts about the reality of hell and a God who would judge mankind. It is not really typical of Edwards’ sermons, which more often spoke of the love and joy of the Christian life. The excerpts from “Safety, Fulness, and Sweet Refreshment to Be Found in Christ” are probably more typical of Edwards’ preaching. Excerpts from both sermons are reprinted here to show that the preacher of God’s wrath could speak sweetly and eloquently of God’s love.

Samuel Hopkins, Edwards’ friend and first biographer, has left us valuable information about Edwards’ preaching style. According to Hopkins, Edwards was a far cry from the stereotyped ranting, gesturing evangelist. In fact, Edwards’ soft, solemn voice did not lend itself to loud tirades. Edwards was renowned as a preacher because (quoting Hopkins) “his words were so full of ideas, set in such a plain and striking light, that few speakers have been so able to demand the attention of an audience as he. His words often discovered a great degree of inward fervor, without much noise or external emotion, and fell with great weight on the minds of his hearers.” What Edwards lacked in oratorical gifts—Whitefield was the great orator, not Edwards—he made up for with Scripture-based sermons that presented with logic, integrity, and vivid word pictures the need to cling to God.

Edwards went into the pulpit carrying ...

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